“The definitively Canadian duo has an ear for pop hooks, but writes songs that sound warm and comfortable.” —NPR
Dala, the award-winning duo of Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine, are releasing their fifth studio record, Best Day this June on Compass Records. With lush intertwining harmonies, the duo underscores the folk-pop album’s “life is short” message with accompaniment from piano, guitar, ukulele and minimal drums. The title track of the album is available as a single exclusively on iTunes with an accompanying video.
Throughout their career the duo have toured tirelessly, building their following the old-fashioned way, turning first-time listeners into instant, die-hard fans, winning 5 Canadian Folk Music Awards and a Juno nomination. Dala has played all over North America and for the highest profile music festivals, among them New Orleans Jazz Fest, Philadelphia Folk Festival, Denver’s Swallow Hill, the Lowell Summer Concert Series, Strawberry Music Fest, Sisters Folk Festival the and 50th Anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival in 2009 – where Dala were the only Canadian act invited to play. Last summer Dala hosted a PBS special primetime concert entitled “Girls From The North Country” which aired all over North America with multiple plays in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston Portland, Austin, Cleveland, Charlotte and more.
Dala is grateful, but they tend to measure the success of their records according to more personal benchmarks, such as how well a given record reflects their friendship and how it might enable them connect more effectively with their diverse audience of both the young and young at heart. Best Day is no exception. “We really feel this album represents all of the aspects of our personalities, individually and together,” Carabine says. Walther and Carabine underline their message beautifully by bracketing Best Day with ‘Life on Earth’ and ‘Still Life’; two songs that encourage listeners to view their lives as masterpieces in the making, regardless of the materials they’re given to work with.
Lyrically, many of the songs on Best Day tread a fine line between uncertainty and hope, often finding Carabine and Walther asking questions both believe can never be answered completely. “They’re the things we’re always grappling with, regardless of life’s highs and lows,” Carabine says, “but that’s the thread that ties all our music together.”
Nowhere is that more evident than on Walther’s, ‘Father’ and Carabine’s, ‘Good as Gold’, both of which deal with the most complex, yet assuredly impermanent relationship – the relationship between parents and their children. But even playful tracks, like ‘First Love’ and ‘Lennon McCartney’, carry the kind of emotional weight that whether a listener is passing from the wooly comforts of childhood into adulthood or recalling memories long since buried, the songs will stop them in their tracks.
What drew Dala together initially was their shared love of the absurd – a quirky, irreverent and occasionally self-critical brand of humor that comes out as clearly in their music as it does their onstage banter. “We go to some emotional places in our music,” Walther says, “Humor serves as a relief from that, and a way to give the audience permission to laugh.” The more spontaneous the dialogue between songs, Carabine adds: “The better the performance and the more memorable the evening.”
That’s exactly the quality Dala hope to capture with every song they write and record – a high standard, perhaps, but one they credit producer, Mike Roth, for holding them in the studio. Roth shares many of their most treasured influences, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan among them. Additionally, having produced all of their records to date, he’s uniquely suited to help the duo capture their evolving vision as more recent influences, American folk singer, Eliza Gilkyson, Radiohead and Fleet Foxes, for example, come to bear on their music.